The Wintry Farm and Kittens

I opened the front door to great heaps of snow. For southern Colorado, this is quite a storm. It is still blustery and the snow is falling thickly with glints of sunlight shining through. It is a chattering 1 degree with the wind. Our farm dog, Gandalf, is sleeping indoors this morning despite his woolly exterior.

The chickens are snug in their coop with the help of a heat lamp. I will need to put on my galoshes and check on their water. One more cup of coffee!

The wood stove has been puttering along beautifully over the past frigid few days and I am afraid that the wood is about run out and another two cords will not be arriving for another few weeks. We do have a furnace, but there is nothing quite like the warmth from a wood stove to really warm the bones.

We have two new additions to the farm that have warmed our hearts. Their names are Taos and Socorro, after two of our favorite places to holiday in New Mexico.

Fourteen, or so odd, years ago, we adopted several kittens over a two year period full knowing that one day we would lose several cats within a few years. We lost four of them this year, my sweet Frankie just a week ago. We have one old kitty left, our beloved Booboo, whom the children taught to come to Andrew’s room if he blasted Bob Marley. We have two five-year old kitties as well. Well, it’s a bit quiet around here when you are used to many more. The silence of winter approaches and we felt we needed a little life and a little fun around here. So off to the shelter we went on the first blustery day and adopted two adorable little girls.

Our farm is humming along with dreams of spring and planting and future farm animals, as the fire in the wood stove warms the brightens house, the snow-light bouncing through the windows and adding a chill to the senses. ‘Twill be a cold night for tricks and treats tomorrow indeed, but in our little farmhouse we are warm, our hearts filled with joy.

The Lost Bottle of Chokecherry Wine

I came across it while moving. It was hiding amongst the vinegar bottles that look the same. A precious bottle of sparkling, party dress red colored Chokecherry wine.

My blog post on How to Make Chokecherry Wine from nearly five years ago has been my overwhelmingly most popular article. It has had well over five thousand views. I haven’t seen any chokecherries growing in southern Colorado so haven’t made any since. It was fun to open that old memory filled bottle.

Back in my kitchen in Kiowa, about five years ago this week, I poured the half gallon jars of dark, tart chokecherries into a large pot. My tiny one and a half year old granddaughter, Maryjane, had assisted me in picking the chokecherries from the numerous bushes around our old rented farmhouse.

I poured a little wine into a glass so I could see the color. The red had tiny glimmers of orange, denoting age. The aroma was of summer berries. Hints of strawberry came through the chokecherry in the flavor with just a hint of bitter and sweet. And it was hot! I don’t mean temperature, I mean alcohol! I don’t have anything to test it with, but Doug said it was probably the same as rum or other spirits.

In two ounces of chokecherry wine, I added 3 ounces of cold white wine, and 2 ounces of fresh apple cider. It was a delicious fall cocktail. It was quite fun finding the lost bottle of chokecherry wine. I hope you are busy preserving. This weekend I think I will try my hand at making apple wine!

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

Redecorating the Farmhouse, part 2-transformation

20180724_110203I am an advocate of using what we have.  I have a beat up couch and a beat up futon and some beat up chairs and a giant puppy who likes to sleep on them.  I have hand me down furniture that can easily move from room to room to create a different look.

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The newly white bookshelf matches its mate now.  I set it at an angle in the corner to create a smooth appearance to my mini office space complete with vintage secretary.  This L-shaped living and dining room in my hundred year old house lends itself to separate areas for reading, or conversation, or entertaining.

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Tomorrow I will show you what fabulous finds you can get at antique stores, garage sales, craigslist, or thrift stores that still work in this day and age and make life so peaceful and satisfying in their gentle whirrings and lack of electric usage, but there are some things I get new.  Unfortunately from Walmart, but there it is.  It would be ridiculous to use vintage quilts on our furniture. They are best left to beds.  These quilts were twenty dollars and they are surprisingly well made and hold up as farmer’s markets table cloths and chair covers.

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Even though the twinkly lights don’t look that great during the day time, come dusk they transform our house into an enchanted fairy land.  They are our sole light along with kerosene lamps and candles in this space.

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The Hoosier was hiding in the kitchen.  The Farmhouse sign was hiding in the kitchen as well.  They looks so lovely as the first things you see when you walk in our front door.

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The Hoosier has been outfitted as a bar.  The cupboard holds glasses.  The flour case holds bottles.  The drawer holds openers and tea candles.

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The side table and mirror have been outfitted as a wine stand.  The magazine rack holds food magazines.

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The black table lends itself to drama and simple items, like birds nests and natural items found outdoors.  Such perfect decoration and it can change with the seasons.

I moved a table that was in the living room into the kitchen and put a double rack on top to hold all of my cookbooks.  A simple solution to dissuade the puppy from eating my cookbooks and it is beautiful in its highlight of the lamp, books, and coffee grinder.

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Growing where planted and gratitude are important and the frugal homesteader can do a lot with paint and a little creativity.  There is no place like home!  See you tomorrow for part 3!

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Redecorating the Farmhouse, part 1- Painting the Furniture

20180723_141059_Burst01I had good intentions when I painted it the first time!  Instead of a lovely, muted pumpkin orange, the ten dollar table from a yard sale looked more like it was showing its football pride.  (I love Broncos as much as the next Coloradan but not in the kitchen!)  The orange paint started peeling off right away because yours truly didn’t sand the top.

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The lovely young woman staying with me donned an apron and helped me redecorate and restore.  She may as well be one of my children.  We sanded off the old paint, which didn’t take much, and roughed up the surface.

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I wanted a chalkboard top.  We looked and looked for chalkboard paint in the aisle and could only find spray paint.  Then we saw “chalk style” paint.  I thought it was a strange way to say chalkboard paint but we took it home all the same and applied it to the table.  It was watery.  And then I remembered what chalk paint is!  It is like white wash.  It adds a vintage look to furniture.

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I painted the legs.  The table has been transformed from football to farmhouse!

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Now, one quart of Country White paint- which is just a touch cream- makes all the difference in the world to cast offs.  Take this brown bookshelf.  I have never loved the brown.  I always meant to paint it.

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It is amazing how much different it looks and how comforting and country it now looks.

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A brown side table and vintage mirror got the same treatment.

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I will show y’all tomorrow how these pieces, along with a little chaos and hard work, transformed my house into a beautiful farmhouse!

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It gets worse before it gets better, y’all!

 

Footprints ‘Cross the Floor (the fallacy of the clean farmhouse)

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Now I said it with my mom voice.  You know the mom voice?  Even if the kids grow up and move out the voice still finds its way around.

“No shoes in the house!” I says.  Best mom voice.

No…(pause)…shoes in the…(pause)…house pleease!

Now I am married to an independent man but one that likes (wisely) to keep mama happy.  He comes in from work- tired and hungry- and takes off his shoes first thing.  He stashes them below the sofa so the puppy doesn’t play with them.  He puts on his bedroom slippers.

And then!  Later he walks out the back door in his slippers, through the chicken yard, into the chicken coop, gathers eggs, and comes back in tracking chicken straw, mud, and myriads of stickers, his big, doofy pup following with large paw prints ‘cross the cleanish kitchen floor.

Well, they ain’t shoes, I guess.

Now Folks, the idea of the perfectly clean house is a fallacy designed by gents in suits selling the finest cleaners and somehow it stuck.  Only the very bored and those that have lost a hobby or two have a perfectly clean house, in my mind.

There is clutter, and dishes, and overnight guests, and animals galore, and laughter, and spilt wine, and a dog on the sofa.  The dust falls like fairy dust and the home is cozy and fine as it should be.

So, y’all, I look at them two traipsing across the kitchen floor that was clean for five minutes.  Pa hands over the eggs and the hundred pound puppy drools on the floor, both waiting for mama to smile.

And my heart swells, and I do, because that’s what brooms are for, and puppies, and husbands, and kids, and guests were always more important than footprints ‘cross the floor.

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The Farmhouse Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, is it not?  Where sustenance and love culminates into family around the table, friends clinking glasses, the quiet of morning coffee, and the gentle stirring of a pot of something delicious.  This is the largest kitchen I have ever had and it is just wonderful.  Even more wonderful, I didn’t have to do anything to it!  I love the color and the punched tin back splash is something I would have chosen myself.  The twinkly lights and festive grape vine lights replace the harsh overhead lighting (when I’m not taking pictures).  I will never opt for overhead lighting if I can help it!  I also removed the curtains.

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We scored this sign last week and couldn’t believe our luck.

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In these old houses the washer hook up is in the kitchen.  That seems quite reasonable to me.  Doug will be putting up a clothes line for me today!

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My apron collection hangs primly around the pantry.  The sign was a gift from a student.  It is a lovely reminder that dreams do come true.

The children’s knick knacks that they created during their childhood surround the sink along with Maryjane’s miniature coffee cups for when she sleeps over.

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Plenty of counter space, beautiful gifts from friends, and years to come of precious memories and delicious food.  Sláinte!

Farmgirl Decorating; Next Idea Board and Paint

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This is the second idea board- Beautiful Farm House.  Simple.  Comfy.  Clever.  Painting starts today with the living room.

Now first things first when you are redecorating your space.  Paint is simply the biggest alteration you can make.  It will speak loud and clear about the space it represents.  It is also inexpensive and fairly easy to do.  I do love paint with all my Farmgirl heart.

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I want to combine my two idea boards into the living space.  I want to honor the home’s ninety-two year old history.  This is a family home.  It should have places to put one’s feet up, places to read and dream while looking out one of the many windows.  It should be clean and orderly but not so much that it feels stagnant.  A comfortable home where Grammie and Pa can be found.  It should represent Doug and I and our loves (lots of plants, books, gifts from friends, and art created from our daughters, granddaughter, or myself.

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A nice chocolate color on the trim will help it mimic beams.  It will give it a cabin/country feel.  For the walls I have chosen a beautiful yellow to illuminate the light from the windows.  I took down all the curtains, and well, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow for the before and after!  See you then!  I have to start painting!

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

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Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

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Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

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Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

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I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

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We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

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For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

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These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.

The Inspired Writer/Farmer’s Farmhouse (perhaps it’s time to do the dishes)

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This is an excusive look inside a farmhouse whose occupants have been busy with shows promoting their farm, fluffy farm animals, and writing books.  I warn you, these written images are not for the meek.

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There are cat boogies in my hair

the lamb just peed under the chair

the dining table is filled with business and such

the dishes in the sink are too scary to touch.

I have lost the dog, I must confess

He’s probably under all this mess

Scary spiders have moved into the cobwebs, you see

Something under the couch is lurking at me (oh wait, that’s a kitten)

Spring clean I must!

Scrub, and sweep, and certainly dust.

Been writing books, and my mind’s elsewhere with all this fluff

I hope to find my sanity under all this stuff!